Less than an hour away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood is the quaint beach town, Santa Barbara, the perfect place for a romantic mini moon, or honeymoon. Here’s a three day itinerary that gives you a peek into beautiful Santa Barbara, downtown and the surrounding areas like Los Olivia, Goleta and the Santa Inez Valley.
Photos & Words: Jen Huang
I’ve had the pleasure of being a Santa Barbarian for the last few years after living in New York City for most of my life. I’ve also lived in Los Angeles and San Diego, but absolutely love calling Santa Barbara my home. It is a wonderful and happy place with seemingly endless good weather!
Day 1 – Arrive in Santa Barbara in the late morning, have brunch at Renaud’s or Janine’s, the croissants and french toast at Renaud’s are amazing, and the biscuits and gravy at Janine’s are divine. Spend the afternoon walking up and down State Street, the main street of Santa Barbara downtown. Some of my favorite local shops are Rooms & Gardens and Pierre Lafond & Wendy Foster.
For mainstream shopping, visit Paseo Nuevo and the surrounding streets. If you love museums, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art is lovely, and there are plenty of art galleries on State Street as well. In the afternoon, have a beer at Elsie’s Tavern, and walk over to tour the old historic presidio.
Dine at Julienne, one of my favorite restaurants with a seasonal tasting menu. If dinner doesn’t have you tired, see a movie at Arlington Theatre, the theatre itself has a twinkling star ceiling so it feels like you’re outdoors during your film.
Have a snack at Mattei’s Tavern, they have a wonderful bar menu and great drinks, then head over to Sunstone Winery, one of my favorites, for their lovely tasting and lawn games. If you’re planning on staying in Santa Ynez for dinner, head to the Landsby, a super cute and modern hotel in Solvang with delicious food.
Day 3 – If you’re around on a Saturday morning, head to the local Farmer’s Market and grab yourself a wine country brunch to enjoy at the beach. If you’re up to it, drive down to Matador Beach, which is just an hour away, north of Malibu. It’s one of the prettiest beaches I’ve been to, with beautiful rock formations and a nice sandy cove.
If driving isn’t your thing, have your breakfast right on East Beach, which also has a grill in case you’re looking for convenience. Walk from the beach to the Funk Zone again and enjoy it during the daytime, there is a three-floor antique shop called The Blue Door which is right next to a gorgeous textile shop called Raoul’s Textiles.
In the afternoon, visit the neighboring Old Town Goleta, there is an abundance of thrifting and a yummy lunch spot called The Goodland Cafe.
Return to downtown Santa Barbara before 4:30 to take advantage of the clock tower visiting hours at Santa Barbara Courthouse. The clock tower has a 360 degree panoramic view of Santa Barbara, you might even see my house from it!
Once the Courthouse closes, take a walk in the lush Sunken Gardens right behind it. For a fancy dinner, head to the gorgeous and exclusive San Ysidro Ranch, where tables outside at the plow and angel are first come, first serve.
Tips – Santa Barbara is a safe and wonderful small down, most places in downtown Santa Barbara can be walked, but if your feet get tired, there is a very inexpensive trolley that takes passengers up and down State Street. Along the beach you can rent bicycle carts and tandem bikes which are touristy, but fun.
There are a lot of wonderful hotels in the area, but I personally like to recommend that you stay at vacation rentals because each home in Santa Barbara is unique and beautiful. When people visit Santa Barbara, they want a taste of the lifestyle, which is all about slow living. You’ll find a lot of homes come with their own lime, lemon and orange trees, which means you can make your own drinks and press your own juices straight from the backyard. To me, sitting and enjoying a drink or meal in my garden is truly heaven!